The Fates are with us, Angelenos, because we are being given a second chance to take a trip to “Hadestown” at the Ahmanson, and this latest iteration of the Anaïs Mitchell folk opera musical is worth the ticket back and most definitely a first visit. It is a wildly imaginative and scintillating reimagining of the stories of Orpheus, Eurydice, Hades, and Persephone. If you are unfamiliar with their stories, it would serve you well to brush up a bit on these Greek myths – not totally necessary but it may enhance your experience and allow you to just let the characters lead you on the journey. This tour is almost an entirely new cast, and the new Eurydice, Amaya Braganza, is worth the ticket price alone.
Hadestown reminds us of the power and beauty of telling our stories again and again – to re-experience them, to learn from them, to make us feel and recognize ourselves in them. The story of young lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, and ruler of the underworld, Hades, and his wife Persephone, is told in a New Orleans basement jazz club where Orpheus works while writing songs – watched over by a smooth, silver suited Hermes, who serves as guide and narrator. He meets a young and knocked down by life Eurydice and they fall in love. We meet Persephone, who brings the spring with her, but when she leaves again for the underworld, Orpheus is too distracted by his art to notice that while his love is calling out for him, Hades steps in to offer her what she needs.
As we continue to emerge from a global pandemic and rediscover meeting our neighbors at the theatre and beyond, the themes that Mitchell explores in Hadestown are ever more poignant and startling. Amaya Braganza is a revelation in her first adult leading role as Eurydice. She is transcendent, wild and fierce and beautifully vulnerable. Her youth works in her favor in conveying Eurydice’s innocence and defiance in a gutsy and raw performance. She is most definitely one to watch. J. Antonio Rodriguez, who has been the understudy on this tour, steps into the role beautifully as an earnest and passionate Orpheus. He commits with every fiber of his being with a wide-eyed sincerity and optimism that compliments Braganza and makes for an entrancing duo. Every song they sing together is mesmerizing but their duet “All I’ve Ever Known” is an absolute pure expression of all consuming, soulmate kind of love.
Lana Gordon is having a ball as Persephone and takes the audience right along with her. A classically trained dancer, she brings an electrifying physicality to every moment she’s on stage. She goes toe to toe with husband Hades, the sexy and sinister Matthew Patrick Quinn who elicits our deepest fears with a baritone that cuts like a knife. Gordon and Quinn beautifully convey their profound connection – anyone who has walked the heartaches of a long relationship feels the depth of emotion when these two learn to dance again.
Leading us on this road to hell and back is the charismatic Will Mann as Hermes, who brings his melodic, soulful voice to the proceedings and provides an elder’s wisdom, grace, and parental anguish.
The Fates, played by Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson, and Hannah Schreer are giving phenomenal three part harmonies with tremendous sass and verve. Every single person on stage (and the intrepid percussionist off-stage) is integral to every intoxicating moment, including the Workers Chorus (Sevon Askew, Jamal Lee Harris, Courtney Lauster, Daniel Tracht, Racquel Williams) and the scorching, red-hot orchestra led by pianist Eric Kang with Kely Pinheiro – cello, Jennifer Choi Fischer – violin, Illusha Tsinadze – guitar, Brian Scarborough – trombone/glockenspiel, Calvin Jones – double bass, Eladio Rojas – drums/percussion. Note that 10/10 – 10/15 Angeleno, Anthony Ty Johnson will be returning on drums and percussion.
Storytelling like this reminds us of our shared humanity, of our joys and sorrows – of how things were and inspires us to create the world we dream about.
“Hadestown” runs through October 15, at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Offices (at the Ahmanson Theatre) at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012. Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.